I am mostly working in IT these days, but I have great memories from a year I spent teaching English in a non-English-speaking region. (I'm a native speaker of American English with a CELTA certification.) I'm hoping to spend a year on hiatus doing something similar before the end of the decade.

I initially thought it would be fun to do this in Lagos, in order to see what Africa's biggest city is like, but I quickly gave up that idea when I realized that most Nigerian people already speak excellent English and won't have much demand for paid English teachers.

So that leads me to my question: In which 3 or 4 African countries is English spoken the least?

Please link out to your information sources if possible.

1 Answer 1


Gambia and Malawi have the lowest percentage of English speakers according to Wikipedia. The only place with lower percentage is China at 0.9% compared to 2.34 and 3.88 for Gambia and Malawi, respectively. There are a few other countries in Africa with fewer than 10%: Swaziland, Uganda, Tanzania and Algeria.

As you recently found out, a lot of countries in Africa have plenty of English speakers due to colonial times and this tends to be concentrated around larger cities, so a global percentage will not be representative of the main cities since access to education varies greatly in that part of the world.

Interestingly, other than Algeria listed above, all these other countries list English as an official language! This could make people want English and more likely to pay for classes, although this is speculation on my part.

  • 6
    The Wikipedia list is missing all eight modern countries that formed French West Africa (Mauritania, Senegal, French Sudan (now Mali), French Guinea (now Guinea), Côte d'Ivoire, Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso), Dahomey (now Benin), and Niger) as well as Chad. I can't imagine many in Chad speak English with French and Arabic being official plus local languages. Apr 16, 2021 at 20:38
  • It's possible but we're talking small percentages... usually when there is an official language that extremely widely use, there's less an incentive to adopt a foreign one.
    – Itai
    Apr 17, 2021 at 3:25
  • 3
    I lived in Uganda and Tanzania and visited Gambia and Swaziland. Particularly Tanzania's and Uganda's number in Wikipedia's list, but also Gambia's, seem wildly off to me. I traveled extensively in Uganda and significantly in Tanzania, and never found myself in a situation where I could not communicate in English.
    – MastaBaba
    Apr 17, 2021 at 14:53

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